Monday Musings: Jamie Spencer and Fortune’s Fickle Finger

I’ve tried to live by one or maybe two strong maxims in my working life, writes Tony Stafford. Firstly, never refuse a job – something that has proved very easy to adhere to as the offers have dried up – and I almost never did. Secondly, never close a door after people seem to have dumped you, something again I’ve followed with the impressive exception of David Elsworth whose festering years-long dislike was once again reinforced when out of the blue, as they say, he thumped me on the back at the July Course last week.

But then, as you probably know, good old Elsie – I had an Auntie Elsie, a far gentler soul than the brilliant but irascible trainer who once gave poor old Bill Turner a proper thumping – is a law unto himself.

Jockeys can ill afford to close doors, however futile it may be to grin in the presence of former employers who have dispensed with their services. Jamie Spencer, now in his golden years (36) as a rider is the perfect example of the “keep smiling” school, constantly affable in the face of a midsummer schedule that might take in humdrum days like today with six rides shared between Chelmsford and Windsor.

The previous couple of weeks between a Class 6 success for Conor Dore on City of Angkor Wat, one of five June 27 rides at Wolverhampton, and Friday of the July meeting, Jamie turned out 35 times for 20 different trainers, without further success.

There were near misses, most notably on The Grey Gatsby, whom he had ridden in all five 2015 domestic starts for the Kevin Ryan stable. In the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, The Grey Gatsby was dropping from the top level into Group 2 class for the first time since his 2014 victory in the Dante at York, but gallingly for Spencer could not peg back front-running Big Orange, his regular mount around the world last year.

Spencer had been on Bill Gredley/Michael Bell’s stayer when winning the same race a year ago, and teamed up again when fifth in the 2015 Melbourne Cup and then runner-up to Vazirabad in the Dubai Gold Cup in March.

Despite the obvious difficult choices, associations such as Spencer’s with owners Jim and Fitri Hay bring pretty regular big-race mounts for such as David Simcock and Kevin Ryan, who between them provided 13 of the 35 in the period of interest. In that context Spencer has done well to collect 53 wins in the UK this year.

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That tally puts him in a strong position to exceed comfortably his last two seasonal scores of 85 and 74 and probably complete a 12th century. Every year between 2005 and 2013, he reached that figure, usually with ease. His lowest tally was the 103 in 2012; the best a staggering 207 in 2007.

Almost a decade on from that prolific season, he has become more selective, but on the “keep the door ajar” principle, there are days when the commonplace <turns> into the rare, to quote the great American standard, “Stranger in Paradise”.

His cross-Atlantic forays have not always been enjoyable – for instance the day Secret Gesture and Jamie lost the Beverly D at Arlington Park last year thanks to, as he (and many others, Ed.) saw it, some exaggerated acting by original third, Irad Ortiz, Jr., on Stephanie’s Kitten. Secret Gesture was put back to third that day, a case of grand larceny in the home city of Al Capone.

But on Saturday night in New York, Jamie had one of those wonderful days when it all comes together. Aidan O’Brien, for whom Spencer was first jockey in his early 20’s, had two runners in both the Belmont Derby and Oaks. Ryan Moore was busy at Newmarket principally for Air Force Blue’s comeback, so Spencer renewed his association with Epsom Derby also-ran Deauville, whom Fitri Hay shares with the Coolmore partners.

The better-fancied of the Ballydoyle pair was triple winner Long Island Sound, last time third to fast-improving Hawkbill in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Hawkbill’s subsequent Eclipse Stakes defeat of O’Brien’s The Gurkha pointed Chicago punters in his direction, but he was in the pack as Spencer drove his mount to an emphatic success. The only British-trained challenger, Humphrey Bogart from the Hannon stable, again showed he is a grade or two short of the top.

In the Belmont Oaks, Ballydoyle and Coolmore were represented by Ballydoyle and Coolmore. Again Colm O’Donoghue was on the more fancied Ballydoyle, but after a slow start she was never in contention and trailed home last of 13. Spencer and Coolmore – confused enough yet? – also missed the break, but that’s the Spencer trademark and she stayed on for a creditable third and 50k plus in what used to be proper money.

I mentioned earlier that Spencer’s domestic endeavours have brought 53 wins. These have come from 315 rides at a very acceptable 17 per cent. The wins have provided £515,187 in total prizemoney, worth maybe 40k to the jockey.

The Belmont Derby carried a winner’s prize of £455,000, so added to Coolmore’s place money, Spencer’s two mounts earned half a million. Nice away day!

O’Brien, of course, dominated the early part of the July meeting, collecting Friday’s two big fillies’ races with Roly Poly and Alice Springs. Before the Group 1 Falmouth, I thought Alice Springs looked to be thriving and if I had been caught out by the level of market interest in her at the expense of drifting favourite Usherette, there was no escaping Alice Springs’ authority.

It was only before yesterday’s Prix Jean Prat, where Nemoralia was probably a disappointment to the Jeremy Noseda camp, that I first saw the Coronation Stakes video. On the day itself, I was high-tailing it to Newmarket to watch Ray Tooth’s Dutch Law get narrowly beaten in a competitive if modest handicap, so missed the eye-catching late run of Alice Springs which would surely have brought success if delivered a little earlier.

She clearly has now jumped up into second place in the list of top O’Brien fillies behind the incomparable Minding, and if she rather than the dual Classic winner turns up at Goodwood, she’ll be my Nassau nap.

O’Brien also got to a prizemoney milestone last week, pushing his UK earnings beyond £3m, the seventh time he’s achieved that distinction. Another £800k would push him past his best total from three years ago, but there can be little doubt that even £5m is not an impossible dream.

Dutch Law was at it again at Ascot on Saturday, finding plenty of trouble under the ultra-professional Pat Smullen, with whom, I confess, I’d never previously had more than a nodding acquaintance. The gelding was runner-up behind a nice late-developing Ed Walker three-year-old, Experto Creed, who took advantage of the 12lb we gave him to get home a length and a bit to the good.

Dutch Law flashed though the penultimate furlong, but as Pat said afterwards: “I think he knew before me that we wouldn’t get there”, adding that in behind “he travels like a Group horse, but you are always going to be a hostage to fortune as you have to ride him like that. Really, he’s a bit of a monkey!” Yes, Pat, but he’s our monkey!

Kevin Ryan takes aim at local track

Ryan with Stable Star The Grey Gatsby

Ryan with Stable Star The Grey Gatsby

Kevin Ryan’s sprinters are always worth a second look when August’s York Ebor meeting arrives. He’s done particularly well with his juveniles in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes in recent times with victories for Astaire, Blaine and back in 2005 Amadeus Wolf.

Hot Streak, Hototo and Bogart have also hit the target in the past few years. Just 12 months ago it was Blaine taking the opener on day one whilst Online Alexander closed the meeting in style for the North Yorkshire trainer.

Ryan brings another strong team to the Knavesmire, including his stable star, who he hopes can cause something of an upset in the opening day’s showpiece. The Grey Gatsby will have plenty on his plate in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes.

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The weather has put Gleneagles participation in doubt, but Golden Horn and Time Test still lie in wait. There’s just a chance that the ease in ground conditions could favour Ryan’s colt; perhaps denting slightly the finishing kicks of his market rivals.

The yard certainly appear confident of a huge run, with Ryan's son Adam reporting last week: “The Grey Gatsby is absolutely bang on where we want him and he's all set for York. Golden Horn is obviously a very, very good horse, but The Grey Gatsby loves York - he has twice won there and was a fine second in the race last year. I think we are going there with a great chance.”

Away from the ‘big one’ the Hambleton handler opens the meeting with two speedsters in the Symphony Group Stakes. Bogart was sixth in the race last year and won the event in 2013. Distant Past is the yard’s other representative. He’s won three of his last six and will have Jamie Spencer on board. It could prove a profitable day for Spencer, and he certainly needs a change of luck after events in America over the weekend.

The juveniles take centre-stage in race two with the Tattersalls Acomb Stakes. Ryan runs Mohab, a colt by Sir Percy who romped home last time at Catterick. He showed plenty of promise on debut when running green before finishing strongly in a maiden at York. There are plenty of smart looking types in the race, but Ryan’s powerful youngster is not without a chance.

On Thursday the team have two in the opener, followed by Ashadihan in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes. She’s a classy filly, and ran a cracker last time at Royal Ascot in the Albany. Beaten by Hannon’s leading juvenile filly Illuminate, the form looks strong and she has to arrive in this with a great chance. She takes on Lumiere and Besharah among others, in what looks a terrific renewal.

Glory Awaits and Salateen are entered in the Sky Bet City of York Stakes later in the week. The latter won well at the track in July, though this is far more competitive. Others runners worth noting include Weekend Offender, who is a nicely bred juvenile entered in a maiden on Friday; and Areen who is set to run in a very competitive Gimcrack Stakes on Saturday.

Kevin Ryan is one of a number of Yorkshire trainers that will be desperate to hit the target at this most prestigious meeting. Along with the likes of Messrs’ Fahey and O’Meara, it’s hard to imagine the powerful northern team leaving the Knavesmire empty handed.

York Juddmonte International Day Preview, Tips

York Ebor: Day 1 preview tips

York Ebor: Day 1 preview tips

Day 1 of York's Ebor meeting features the flat race of the season so far, the Juddmonte International. A stellar cast which includes a dual Guineas winner, a Derby and Eclipse winner, an Irish Champion Stakes winner, an Australian Group 1 winner, and a fast improving Royal Ascot winner, promises fireworks aplenty.

As well as that fabulous Group 1, we are treated to a supporting card that includes an established St Leger trial and a solid juvenile Group 3. We start with a big field of sprinters in the...

1.55 Symphony Group Stakes (Handicap, Class 2, 5f 89 yds)

Twenty reputably rapid racers will charge down the straight track for a stride or three beyond five furlongs, and it will be a braver/more foolhardy player than me who goes 'all in' here.

Pace is fairly proportioned across the piste with perennial trailblazers Tangerine Trees (20) and Midlander (2) almost bookending the field. Meanwhile, in the centre of the course, another frequent early flyer, Meadway bounds from stall eight. In other words, wherever your fancy is drawn, there should be some toe to track.

Although it won't do a lot to whittle the field, it is worth noting that in the only year (from six) that a Northern-based trainer didn't win this race, they finished second, third and fourth. Locals will be expecting to bag the swag.

Kevin Ryan has spoken of this five and a half furlong range being a 'specialists' trip', and he should know having taken the last two renewals. He saddles 2013 winner (and last year's sixth), Bogart, and in-form Distant Past. Drawn very high and very low, Team Ryan will have a squeak whichever side is favoured.

With rain on the eve of the Ebor meeting, the going has eased to good to soft or thereabouts, and it will make the trip a touch more testing. The low drawn Distant Past may then have the edge on his older stable mate, with the springier turf a plus.

Huntsmans Close and Dutch Masterpiece vie for market leadership, but I'm far from convinced the former wants this shorter trip, despite an excellent run in the Stewards' Cup last time off the same rating. Conversely, Dutch Masterpiece has been running as though an extended five is perfect; for him, though, the middling draw is marginally off-putting.

There are stacks in here with legitimate claims, as 10/1 the field attests, and my two pokes in the murk are Silvanus and Caspian Prince. It is easier to make a case for Silvanus than the Prince, this fellow arriving on a hat-trick after going away wins over the minimum. He's got a decent enough draw in seven, and acts fine on the soft side of good.

Paul Midgley's team of sprinters have been in bobbydazzling form this season so 16/1 on this old buzzard appeals to small beer, especially with Graham Lee keeping the ride.

Caspian Prince requires a leap of faith, but in an open race and at 33/1, it's permissible to attempt such a lunge. A speedster drawn five, he has been running well in Group company, and his Class 2 handicap form reads 00321626005. That recent '5' was in the hyper-competitive Rockingham Handicap in a field of 21, and he could outrun his odds for an in-form trainer with a very good long term York record.

Fourteen more that I haven't mentioned with varying degrees of credible cases to be made, but I'll roll the dice with a pair of big'uns in Silvanus 16/1 e/w and Caspian Prince 33/1 e/w.

Hills, Betfair and Racebets are all paying five places, and the exchange sportsbook are joint-top price on both, if you can get a bet on with them.


2.30 Acomb Stakes (Group 3, 7f)

When the hurly burly of that first race is done, we'll face up to an altogether different puzzle as ten promising babies look for some stallion appeal in this Group 3 seven furlong heat.

Nine of the ten won last time, but the one that didn't, Adventurer, holds solid claims. Fourth at Goodwood to Shalaa - this season's top juvenile to date - he was said to have been ill at ease on the Sussex (ups and) Downs and yet ran a fast time in defeat. The Mark Johnston team circle in and out of form on an almost weekly basis and this week they look to be in good shape.

Those with a single prior seven furlong win have an impressive 24% win and 46% place strike rate since 1997, and that is a tick for seven of the field which, unfortunately, means it is not of much utility to us. To the form book then, such as it is at this fledgling stage in these fellows' careers.

Mohab was incredibly impressive when hacking up by eight lengths in what may, granted, have been a weak Catterick maiden. Still, he was a good third on his only previous start, over course and distance, and his trainer, Kevin Ryan, won this in 2005.

The form of David Barron's Bing Bang Bong has worked out well, his initial bronze medal race throwing up three subsequent winners so far, and his win last time already franked by the second and the sixth. That was a soft ground Newmarket maiden where he was three lengths and more too good, so any further rain would be to his liking.

When are John Gosden's horses not to be respected? That, of course, is a rhetorical question, as the answer, as you very well know, is 'never'. Cymric was sufficiently highly regarded to début in the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and, while that was too much too soon, he got the job done on his sole subsequent spin, in a race where the fourth and eighth have won since from just three to race again.

Similarly unnecessary is a response to the question, "when does Willie Haggas run a horse at York without a chance?". He's hit a fine streak of form in... well, he's actually got a 25% win rate over the last six months, so at least that long! Recorder flies the ex-pat Yorkshireman's flag in the Acomb, and the Galileo colt does it for Her Maj.

It was a soft seven when he got home last time, and it may not be too different underhoof this time. The third and fourth were both huge prices there, but both have gone on to win their sole starts since, giving the form a robust appearance.

Dream Mover has taken plenty of support in the early exchanges, with Marco Botti's colt clearly expected to improve for the step up to seven furlongs. He's proven with give but looks to have plenty more to find to test the best here. Naturally, as with every other in the field, he could bound forwards but I like the chance of others more. Not a lot more, mind, in a very open heat.

Recorder and Adventurer, and possibly Mohab as well, make my placepot perms. I do not have to have a win or each way bet, and will be exercising that right on this occasion. Unless you have a strong view, it might be prudent to follow suit.


3.05 Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f)

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A race with a rich heritage, both in terms of identifying St Leger winners, and high class older horses. The latter point is emphasized by the last two winners, Telescope and Postponed, who both went on to at least place in Group 1 company, Postponed claiming last month's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

This year's field boasts the usual array of late-blooming Classic crop stayers, testament to which is the fact that Derby 4th and Irish Derby 3rd, Giovanni Canaletto, is only 8/1 FIFTH favourite in a field of seven.

He finished a place behind the re-opposing Storm The Stars in both Classics, and that one went on to a hat-trick of 'Derby' places by adding third in the (to some) French equivalent, the Grand Prix de Paris, a race threatening to usurp the Prix du Jockey Club's historical status.

There ought to be little between them again, which makes the gulf in odds - STS is 7/2, GC is 8/1 - somewhat mystifying, particularly in light of the hard season the shorter-priced has had.

Whether Giovanni Canaletto is the pick of three runners from his Ballydoyle stable is another question. The other pair, Aloft and Bondi Beach, have both been showing their talents over longer trips than this mile and a half, and have advertised their St Leger claims in the process.

Aloft won the two mile Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot, a weak enough race normally; and he took fourteen and a half of the sixteen furlongs to get to the front that day. Of course, he could have arrived sooner, but whether he has the pace to live with Derby placed animals I don't know.

Similar comments apply to the similarly unexposed Bondi Beach. Unraced last year, he kicked off his career with a facile short head win over odds-on stablemate, Bantry Bay, in a mile and a half heavy ground maiden. Stepped up to Listed class next time over the same distance, he couldn't quite reel in Radanpour.

An extra quarter mile put that right in the Group 3 Curragh Cup last time out, a race in which he just prevailed. He seems to do little more than is asked and is clearly a fine talent so, with the ground presumed in his favour and only three runs on the board, he could step forward a fair bit. Trainer's son, Joseph O'Brien, takes the ride on a live one.

Tashaar, unbeaten in two, steps out of handicap company having absolutely scooted up at Glorious Goodwood last time. Whilst this is undoubtedly tougher he could not have won more readily there, and he's quite attractive at 9/2. Sometimes the visual impression of a race is striking, this being one such occasion, so while I can't put a heap of meat on the bones of his case, especially given he's taking on hardened Group horses, I like him.

To a lesser degree, I like Balios, a horse that is already a mile and a half Group 2 winner, too. He took a retrograde step last time, but retains plenty of scope after just four career starts.

And one I think is over-priced, perhaps because I've backed him for the Leger, is Medrano. His run in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood was all wrong: sitting out the back off pedestrian fractions, he was never put into the contest. Prior to that he'd bolted up on soft ground in a Listed race, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ran into the frame. 14/1 probably understates his ability, though I'd again worry about the pace.

Storm The Stars will presumably cut out the donkey work, with Gio Can tracking. But the rest all want to sit and wait, so there's a chance the rabbit could nab it. A messy old heat.

Such was the eye-catching nature of Tashaar's win last time, and such is his upward trajectory, I've had a smallish bet on him at 9/2. Plenty of others with interesting profiles not least of which is Medrano but seven runners does not normally a compelling each way bet make.


3.40 Juddmonte International (Group 1, 1m2f 88yds)

What a race. What. A. Race.*

*assuming Gleneagles runs...

You know you're looking at a hot contest when a Group 1 winner just three starts back, running over his right trip and ground, is quoted at 40/1. That's the case here with a horse called Criterion, who may have it to do to come home in front but is surely available at heavily inflated odds.

Sadly, it looks like the rain will scupper Gleneagles' participation and, if it does, reduce the race to seven runners. With an odds on favourite, that removes a LOT of the betting appeal of the contest and bookies have their work cut out to get creative. As is often the case in such races, the 'without the fav' market is playable, and we'll come to that in due course.

First, to the cast. With or without dual Guineas (and quadruple Group 1) winner, Gleneagles, this is the equine equivalent of a WWE Royal Rumble.

Golden Horn is the headliner, being an unbeaten Derby and Eclipse winner. Those two wins came on good to firm, and his course and distance Dante win was on good. He did win his maiden on good to soft, but it is far from a given that he'll act on soft. So, at 4/6, and a lot shorter if Gleneagles comes out, he's got to be taken on somehow.

The doubtful runner must have his chance compromised to some degree even if he does start, and at a drifting 5/1 he's thoroughly opposable for me, stretching out to an extended ten furlongs for the first time.

If those are genuine nicks in the prospects of the top two - as opposed to artificially imagined reasons to oppose - then we have ourselves a punting proposition.

The highly impressive Time Test is a 1/2 shot without the front two in the market, and Roger Charlton, his trainer, is bullish about his chance in a race that his owner sponsors and has won twice in the last four years. This son of Dubawi at least has some soft ground influences in his pedigree (out of a Dansili mare) and hosed up in his maiden on good to soft, a race which is working out extremely well.

The flip side is that his most recent win, and the one on which his aptitude for this assignment is based, has not worked out. The third horse, Mustadeem, has been tonked twice since; fourth placed Disegno looked no better than Listed class when six-plus length back in the G3 Gordon Stakes; and the sixth and seventh have been beaten out of the frame in two subsequent starts each.

Indeed, of the eight subsequent runs from the Tercentenary Stakes field, they have managed no more than two places. That's not Time Test's fault. He was mightily impressive. But it does cast a shadow over the merit of what he beat that day and, in the context of a race like this, it's enough to look elsewhere, especially when there are two Group 1 winners still to consider.

The first is the admirable The Grey Gatsby, winner of the 2014 Dante and second in this race last year. He's a dual Group 1 winner at this trip and though he has to concede eight pounds weight for age to the three-year-olds, the frame is more probable than possible to my eye. I would be worried about the ground for him if it comes up soft, but on good to soft he should be able to run his race and that means hitting the first three.

The other is the aforementioned Criterion, a southern hemisphere raider who has 'wintered' in our summer... if you see what I mean. He won a Group 1 in Australia over this trip on soft ground three starts back. That race was worth £1.3 million! All his wins have come on good or softer, and he has run with great credit in two races since that G1 victory, the third of his career (all on soft or heavy).

On his penultimate start, on unsuitable good to firm ground, Criterion was a close up third in a million pound Group 1 race in Hong Kong. Then, last time, he ran at Royal Ascot, again on unsuitable good to firm ground, in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes. The jockey, Chad Schofield, was easy enough on him there, and he comes here a fresh horse after a two month break.

I'm not suggesting he is the most likely winner, nor even that he can win at all. But at 40/1, or 22/1 without Golden Horn (two places paid), or 12/1 without Golden Horn and Gleneagles (two places paid), he's more attractive than many given he is more likely to get the conditions he wants than many.

I've backed Criterion at 12/1, each way two places, without Golden Horn and Gleneagles. Prices are unaffected whether Gleneagles runs or not, as he - and Golden Horn - are essentially non-runners. I also like The Grey Gatsby's proven ability at 12/5 in the same market, where the upwardly mobile Time Test makes the book at two's on. These markets are all with bet365 only at time of writing.


4.20 Handicap (Class 2, 2m 88yds)

A very good, ultra-competitive handicap over an extended two miles. It'll take some getting, with York's interminable home straight offering the prospect of a heavy ground Hexham lookalike finish.

I'm without clue in the main here, but Gabrial's Star looks the sort to bounce back to form with a bit of cut in the turf. His three turf wins have all been on soft, at between twelve and fourteen furlongs, and he was second in a good Wolverhampton handicap over this distance in February. Decent apprentice, Jack Garrity, knocks three pounds off Gabrial's Star's back.

At 20/1 he's no more than a stab in the dark in a fiendish race.

The other I was mildly drawn to is Lucy Wadham's Noble Silk. A good horse trained by a good trainer, this lad ran a cracker when fourth in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot. That was over two and a half miles so there are no stamina concerns, though the ground wouldn't want to go too boggy.

As always in the Festival handicaps, there are oodles of others with chances, including the Tony Martin plot, Heartbreak City, and the latest formerly smart beast to be rejuvenated for a switch to David O'Meara, Big Thunder.

On a day of penny punt interests (Juddmonte 'without' bets aside), I'm happy to side with the italicised pair above, each way at 20/1 GS and 11/1 NS, and much more in hope than expectation.


4.55 Nursery Handicap (Class 2, 6f)

If you're still going on the placepot, you've probably done very well, but your toughest assignment remains. A twenty runner nursery handicap is as close to impossible as doesn't matter!

Here's what I can tell you:

Ravenhoe has the top speed rating but ran last night.

Reputation, first time in a handicap for John Quinn, has the next top rating and masses of scope. John Quinn is only 3-38 with handicap debutants in the last two years.

Shawaahid has won twice with cut in the ground, and stays further, a probable asset in what should be a very fast race for the conditions.

Sir Roger Moore looks like the plot for his in form yard: considered good enough to run in a Group 2 on his second start, and third over course and distance in a Class 3 maiden earlier in the year. He could raise a few eyebrows if winning. (Geddit?!)

Dark Defender is probably better than he showed last time and, while having less scope than some, looks fairy reliable.

Pace might just favour high draws, which points more towards Shawaahid than most, and he's a tentative each way selection at a general 14/1.


The very best of luck with your Day 1 York bets. It's a fascinating card with the prospect of a magnificent race at 3.40. But, from a wagering perspective, it is waaay too hard. Save some money for Jinsha Lake in the 7.50 at Killarney 😉


Classy Juveniles the key to Appleby Success

Godolphin Trainer Appleby

Godolphin Trainer Appleby

He took over in the midst of a major crisis and opinion remains mixed as to the progress made by the team in Royal Blue. Charlie Appleby has been with Godolphin for many years and was appointed trainer for their Moulton Paddocks operation in 2013.

Born in Southampton in 1975, he was introduced to riding at a very young age, thanks in the main to his parent’s involvement with ponies and Arab horses. Though a keen golfer in his youth his ambition was firmly set on becoming a jockey. He became involved with point-to-pointers at the age of 12 and moved on to ride work for trainers Angela Knight and Jackie Retter.

He embarked on a nine-week British Racing School course in Newmarket at the age of 16, and has struck up a strong bond with the town ever since. He rode out at Susan Piggott’s yard after his course and was thrilled to be offered a job.

He soon became travelling head lad as well as race riding on the Flat as an amateur. Unfortunately his weight continued to rise and at 18 it became apparent that a career as a flat jockey was unfeasible. However, his time with the Piggott’s would prove a wonderful learning opportunity for the youngster. He was given greater responsibility within the yard and furthered his education and experience by being able to ride out with the legendary Lester Piggott.

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He remained with them until Susan retired from training in 1995. He then joined David Loder who was known as a trainer capable of producing outstanding juveniles. Appleby was offered a permanent job as second travelling head lad by the Newmarket trainer. Quality horses started out at the yard including one of Godolphin’s greatest, Dubai Millennium.

Loder became the private trainer of two-year-olds for the Godolphin operation in 1998 and moved to the former Evry Racecourse near Paris. The French experience, which lasted two seasons, would prove invaluable for Appleby. He gave up work riding and was placed in charge of one of the six barns; organising the exercise schedules.

He travelled to Dubai for the first time in the winter of 2000, and was given the role of breaking in the two-year-olds. At the end of the 2002, Loder left Godolphin but Appleby was asked to remain and became involved with the main training set-up run by Saeed bin Suroor.

Taking on more responsibility he became yard manager. His career took another step forward in 2007 when he took on an assistant trainer role in Dubai. Two successful winters followed before a return to Newmarket in the spring of 2009. Initially he worked as head lad at Moulton Paddocks before taking over as assistant trainer. In 2013 after the much publicised crisis at the yard, he was promoted to the top job.

Leading juvenile Outstrip proved to be the standard bearer in his first season. The son of Exceed And Excel scorched to victory in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster beating The Grey Gatsby and Cable Bay in the process. He then slightly disappointed when coming home third in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst at Newmarket. However, the grey colt then provided Appleby with his first success at the highest level when winning a thrilling Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.

Appleby landed his first domestic Group 1 in 2014 when Charming Thought took the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, defeating both Ivawood and Muhaarar. Sadly the classy son of Oasis Dream has yet to be seen this season following a setback. It is hoped he could return at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting.

With more than 200 horses in his care, the responsibility and weight of expectation is considerable. It’s fair to say that the big wins have yet to arrive, but it’s still early days, and there’s certainly a number of highly promising juveniles with the potential of challenging for top honours.

Emotionless demolished a decent looking field in a recent maiden at Newmarket. A son of Shamardal, he’s a huge colt who could prove to be top class. He’s entered for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster which Appleby won with Outstrip. A strong performance there would likely see him heading for the Dewhurst. Culturati is another promising sort. The son of Dubawi was beaten by the Queen’s colt Recorder at Newmarket last time, but holds lofty entries for the remainder of the season. We have yet to see Firnas and Istiqlaal, both beautifully bred and entered for the Dewhurst in October.

This Saturday Appleby is set to run Safety Check in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. He ran with great promise at Glorious Goodwood last time after a five month break, and is rightly well-fancied to go close against several talented three-year-olds, including Home Of The Brave and Limato.

Though the Group 1 winners are yet to flood in, it’s important to point out that Appleby is hitting a 26% strike rate of winners to runs. He is currently sixth in the trainers’ championship, with a top three finish not beyond the realms of possibility. Competition on the flat is tougher than ever, with the likes of Qatar Racing and Al Shaqab thrown into the melting pot.

Godolphin remains the team to beat as far as the owner’s championship is concerned, and in Charlie Appleby, they clearly remain confident that the operation is heading in the right direction. A big finish to the season would be more than welcome for the Moulton Paddocks trainer.

York set to stage the Clash of the Summer


The Wonderful York Racecourse

The Wonderful York Racecourse

With a week still to go, the line-up for this year’s Juddmonte International has time to change considerably. Rain may still play a major part in the make-up of the event. But for now, the hope of a Gleneagles - Golden Horn clash is just about as exciting as it gets for a flat racing fan.

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The Epsom Derby hero taking on a dual Guineas winner is a mouth-watering prospect. Gleneagles has been a shining light for the Ballydoyle yard and the same can be said for Gosden’s Classic winner. The clash is exactly what this campaign has been waiting for. The pair are the outstanding three -year-olds of the summer, and it’s pretty difficult to say with any certainty as to who would be best suited by next week’s trip on the Knavesmire.

O’Brien’s dual-Guineas winner was doing all his best work at the end of the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. And the same can be said when he stormed clear nearing the finish of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. It’s true he’s not short of speed, but he’s been finishing his races like a horse that would enjoy a step up in trip. His breeding would certainly fill O’Brien with confidence that this race could actually be more to his liking.

O'Brien told the Racing Post yesterday: “The plan was for Gleneagles go to Deauville on Sunday but, with the rain that they've had and the forecast, that won't be happening now. We've discussed things this afternoon and if the ground at York is good to firm then we will let him take his chance in the Juddmonte International.” O'Brien added: “I've always considered Gleneagles a true miler but he needs good, fast ground to be seen at his best therefore York will probably be his next race as we are running out of options with him. It's a very sporting gesture by his owners.”

Of course we already know that Golden Horn will love the trip and he has the experience of winning at the track when devastatingly impressive in the Dante Stakes back in May. His win in the Eclipse at Sandown confirmed his status as a truly top-class thoroughbred. He’s a horse with gears as he showed when scooting past Jack Hobbs in the Derby, but he’s also capable of ‘knuckling down to it’ as he proved when breaking The Grey Gatsby at Sandown.

Chances are that Frankie will be first to commit on the Derby winner, with Gleneagles playing the stalking role. I’d be surprised if the two aren’t a lot closer in the betting as the race draws near. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to side with one over the other. Interestingly, and probably coming as no surprise, it’s O’Brien that has dominated the race in recent times, with four wins from the last seven renewals. Two of those winners were sons of Galileo, the sire of Gleneagles.

John Gosden is yet to win the ‘Juddmonte’ since its inception in 1972.

Tremendous Treve – The Arc begins to take shape

Tremendous Treve

Tremendous Treve

Treve continues to impress as she advances on a bid to win Europe's premier middle distance race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, for a record-breaking third time.

Criquette Head-Maarek's sensational filly got the better of the Andre Fabre trained Flintshire in Sunday’s Grand Prix de Saint Cloud, as she had in the Arc last October. The Aga Khan’s Dolniya finished back in third, some four lengths adrift. “She won very easily. She just needed a little tap to make her go,” said the winning trainer after the race.

She appeared well on top at the line, though did drift away from the rail when pressed for maximum effort. Flintshire is clearly a decent yardstick having finished in the first three in his last eight starts, six of those at Group 1 level including that second place in the Arc.

It’s likely that she will now have time off before a return in the Prix Vermeille and then a tilt at creating history in October. “That was really exciting,” Sheikh Joaan's racing adviser Harry Herbert said. “It just shows she's as good as ever or better than ever because it was a very impressive performance on ground that was certainly quicker than ideal.”

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Betting suggests that Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn is likely to be Treve’s major challenger at Longchamp. The filly’s trainer appeared to agree when saying: “I want to see the three-year-olds again, but I think the horse who won the Derby is very good. John has won everything. It is fantastic to win two Derby’s with two different horses from the same yard, it is a big achievement.”

The Irish Derby appeared to confirm the strength of the Epsom race, with Jack Hobbs thrashing the opposition which included the French Derby runner-up Highland Reel. John Gosden clearly has two outstanding colts; with both likely to take in the Arc assuming conditions are favourable.

Jack Hobbs continues to improve with Gosden adamant that he will be even better at four, once strengthening into his sturdy frame. Twice beaten by Golden Horn already this season, there’s a chance that his continued development could see him much closer to his stable-mate come October.

Golden Horn runs next in the Eclipse Stakes on Saturday, when he will face a group of older horses including The Grey Gatsby. Kevin Ryan’s outstanding colt was so unlucky to lose out last time at Royal Ascot behind Free Eagle. The form is outstanding, and it’s less than a year since he defeated another Epsom Derby winner, Australia, at Leopardstown over Saturday’s ten furlong trip.

Should Golden Horn run out a convincing winner at Sandown, he could well pressurize Treve in the Arc market. There does remain a doubt as to whether he would run at Longchamp if conditions turn testing. In recent times there have been ten Arcs run on good ground or better, seven on good-to-soft and ten on soft or worse. Of Gosden’s two challengers, Jack Hobbs looks the most likely to travel to Longchamp no matter what the weather.

From France New Bay appears to be the leading three-year-old after his impressive victory in the French Derby. That form took a battering over the weekend with Highland Reel’s lacklustre performance.  Andre Fabre’s colt was set to take on Golden Horn at Sandown on Saturday, but a poor piece of work put paid to his attendance. The Prix Niel looks the natural prep before an attempt at the Arc.

Free Eagle is touted as a possible Arc contender. He needs to back up his Royal Ascot win before being taken seriously for France’s greatest race. He’s clearly a classy performer, but has still only run five times in a stop-start career. Dermot Weld trained Vinnie Roe to take fifth in the Arc back in 2003, and though Free Eagle is highly thought of by the great man, he has proved a frustrating horse to get right.

It’s just possible that at a price of 25/1, The Grey Gatsby could prove Arc value. He took the French Derby in 2014 and finished the Prince of Wales’s Stakes as if a step up in trip would be well within his compass.  He flopped at the mile and a half trip in the Grand Prix de Paris last July, but that was on heavy ground. Should he get close to Golden Horn this weekend, connections would surely be tempted to take the plunge in October.

The Arc picture is starting to take shape. The question remains; can any horse prevent Treve from gaining that triumphant treble.

Promising start for The Grey Gatsby and trainer Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan

Ryan and The Grey Gatsby

Kevin Ryan may have found Saturday’s results rather frustrating, but Read more

The Dubai World Cup – A Truly International Event

Dubai World Cup 2015: California Chrome set to star at Meydan

Dubai World Cup 2015: Cal Chrome set to star

2015 Dubai World Cup Contenders Hail From Around The Globe

Jump racing fans may still have Aintree and Punchestown to look forward to, but the flat season is now starting to cast a pretty large shadow, most immediately with the 2015 Dubai World Cup.

That’s especially true this Saturday when both Doncaster and Meydan are set to thrill the flightless fanatics.

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The rather modestly titled Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline, is the world’s richest race meeting, and will feature nine top-class races. The headline act is the $10 million 2015 Dubai World Cup. The world's richest meeting has attracted horses from around the globe, with the star of the show likely to be California Chrome, currently favourite for the showpiece.

The Dubai Sheema Classic looks to have a particularly cosmopolitan flavour, with France represented by Andre Fabre’s Flintshire; second in the Breeder’s Cup Turf in November; whilst Japan has the mighty jet-setter Harp Star looking to fulfil some of that huge potential. In the same event ex-UK, now American Main Sequence will hope to add to his Breeder’s Cup Turf success. Charlie Hills’ Just The Judge flies the flag for Britain over an unfamiliar 12 furlong trip.

The Grey Gatsby runs in the Dubai Turf for Kevin Ryan and will be ridden by Ryan Moore, though the trip could be on the sharp side and he has Freddy Head’s fast improving Solow to contend with.

Moore also has the leg-up on Amber Sky in the Group 1 sprint, a race the horse won last year when defeating Charlie Appleby’s Ahtoug and the outstanding Shea Shea. The former is in opposition again though Hong Kong’s Peniaphobia is likely to be a tough nut to crack. Ed Lynam’s Sole Power has another shot at a Meydan pot, though he’s yet to strike gold in eight previous attempts.

One of the more interesting contenders at the meeting is Sir Fever who was bought last winter by the Godolphin operation. A winner of the Uruguayan Triple Crown last year, he had won each of his six starts as a two-year-old for trainer Jorge Piriz before a Classic campaign which saw him take the three legs of the Triple Crown by a cumulative distance of over 19 lengths. Tried at Meydan earlier in the month, he ran an encouraging race and is in the UAE Derby on Saturday.

Another Brit who’s used to hitting the target is Michael Owen, and his Brown Panther is set to take his chance in the Dubai Gold Cup. Favourite for Saturday's $1 million Group 2, Tom Dascombe’s classy stayer is starting what is likely to be his final season and the trainer thinks his seven-year-old can begin his swansong with a bang, saying: "I'm very excited about his prospects. It would mean an awful lot to me and it's a pleasure to come back to Dubai with a live chance on 2015 Dubai World Cup night.”